It probably wouldn’t surprise you to know that most of the people we encounter in our cardiology office are sick. They’ve come to see us because they have concerns or have been diagnosed with a cardiac condition and need care. But the truth is, some of them would have better outcomes if they came to see us earlier in their lives. Cardiology, just like visits to your primary doctor, can and should be preventative.
One of the most common red flags that we see in patients needing cardiac care is a family history of heart problems. Unlike some risk factors, family history is not something you can control or manage, so you must consider it as you design a heart-healthy lifestyle.
Uncover Your Family History
The first thing you need to do to be proactive against genetic heart conditions is to determine what kind of (or if any) heart disease runs in your family. Such details can be harder to find as you age and your older relatives are no longer around to answer your questions. Similarly, if you are adopted, you might never have access to that information. This inquiry into your family history can inform so many aspects of your health and is valuable information to pass down to your children.
Tell Your Doctor About Your Family History
Since genetics are such a central piece of the medical landscape of your life, you should get into the habit of telling all of your doctors any genetic information that may contribute to cardiac issues. As there is so much to consider when looking for causes of heart disease, there may be relevant information to your case that you’re not already aware of. Be as transparent as possible, and your cardiologist will be able to help you.
Employ Preventative Measures
Regardless of your family history, some things are universally true about cardiac health. Diet, exercise, stress, and sleep are essential elements of a heart-healthy lifestyle but are increasingly important for people whose family history has increased their risk. We recommend that all of our patients employ the following preventative measures.
Eat A Heart Healthy Diet
We talk about diet a lot and will continue to do so because it is vitally important to living healthfully. If you feel overwhelmed at the idea of adjusting your diet in favor of heart health, there are a few things that you should prioritize. Foods that grow naturally from the earth are the healthiest you can find. Fruits, vegetables, roots, and whole grains don’t contribute to disease as processed foods do; plus, they contain essential nutrients that protect your heart from disease.
It’s best to avoid foods that increase your cholesterol. Often this refers to high fat and highly processed foods. If you are a meat-eater, choose lean meats and fish rather than fatty cuts of red meat. Another substance you want to avoid for the sake of your heart health is sugar. Consuming sugar raises your blood sugar and thus your risk for diabetes. When you shop at the grocery store, notice that most of the fresh foods are on the store’s perimeter while the highly processed foods are along the aisles. Once you realize this, it’s easy to shop accordingly.
Our hearts are 73% water, so it’s reasonable to suggest that we need regular hydration to maintain cardiac health. Additionally, drinking water is much better for your overall health than the alternatives. If you’re in the habit of drinking highly caffeinated, high sugar drinks, you are complicating your heart health. As discussed above, sugar is not good for your cardiac health, but it’s also important to note that caffeine is known to raise blood pressure which can be dangerous for patients already at risk of heart disease. Drinking water is essential to your health.
We live in a fast-paced world. To some of us, the idea of limiting stress sounds like a pipe dream. However, stress reduction is vital to maintain heart health, especially in people who have a family history that increases their risk. Stress raises your blood pressure which stresses out your cardiovascular system. If you are a chronically stressed individual, it’s imperative to take steps to mitigate your stress and protect your heart. Your family history of heart disease may have already stressed your heart, and we don’t need to add to it.
Go To Sleep
If you’re not eating well, dehydrated, and chronically stressed, you’re probably not sleeping well. Research shows that adults need at least seven hours of sleep at night or risk increased chances of high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity. All three of which are risk factors for heart disease. Good sleep is foundational to good health. If you struggle with sleep, speak with your doctor. To increase your sleep drive, start by removing technology from your room, investing in room darkening shades, and developing a healthy bedtime routine.
Once you’re aware of your increased risk for heart disease, plan to see your cardiologist regularly. Since you know your risk, you have to be your best advocate with your doctors and ensure everyone knows how to best care for you. Keeping your heart healthy is a team effort between you and your team of doctors.
There are a lot of things you can do to impact your risk of heart disease. Unfortunately, one thing you cant control is your family history. That’s why it’s so important to make heart-healthy choices that don’t contribute to your preexisting risks. If you have a family history of heart disease or are concerned for your heart health, call our office today. We would love to help you.